This free fiction is part of The Infinite Bard project. A new story will be linked to the IB site every other week, so be sure to check back often!
A Trickster Halloween
Halloween in Bozeman, Montana can be brisk, to say the least. Not that Justin or Janine Prentiss intended to let a little cool weather stop them from trick-or-treating. The Prentiss twins had grown up in Bozeman, so cold weather just meant dressing appropriately, and this evening’s forecast of 45 degrees barely even qualified as cold!
“Don’t forget your neck gaiters,” Dad called from the kitchen where he was getting the cauldron of candy ready to hand out to the neighborhood kids who would soon descend on the front door.
Janine rolled her eyes. “It’s bad enough wearing a winter coat under this witch costume, but a neck gaiter too?”
Justin shrugged his shoulders. “You can always ditch it once we clear the driveway, but you know you won’t get out of the house without it.” He grinned, which looked really odd beneath his carefully applied zombie face paint. “Besides, if you grab Dad’s black one instead of your usual hot pink and purple stripe, it’ll make you look all mysterious if your pull it up so only your eyes are showing.”
“Good point,” Janny said, grabbing Dad’s favorite black polar fleece gaiter. “What’re you using?”
“I thought ahead and borrowed a bright red one from Kent. I figure it’ll look like my neck’s been slashed.”
“Oooo… good thinking!”
Just then Coyote raced into the entry hall, claws clicking on the hardwood floor. “How do I look?” he demanded as he skidded to a stop at Justin’s side.
Justin beamed at his spirit animal and bond mate. Coyote made being a shaman with magical powers worth all the dangers they sometimes faced. Justin had always considered the stories of the furry trickster his shaman grandfather’s best, but to discover last summer that Coyote— not just any coyote, but the Coyote—had chosen him, Justin Prentiss, to be his shaman and bond mate, well, unbelievable didn’t begin to scratch the surface!
“You look great,” Justin said, scratching behind Coyote’s ears in just the right spot and admiring the dirty white bandages that wound around Coyote’s body and dripped from his tail. “You make an awesome mummy-dog. Did Dad help you?”
Coyote flopped onto the floor, his tongue lolling out happily. “Nope. Winona used her magic. The wrappings aren’t real, but they’ll fool all the people we see tonight.”
Janine laughed and sent a thought of thanks winging into her spirit animal’s mind.
Winona. The mighty thunderbird.
Janine was the luckiest girl in the world!
I’m glad you are pleased with my efforts, She Who Cares for Thunderbirds. Consider it my contribution to the evening’s festivities.
Janine nodded, though Winona wasn’t in the house to see. The thunderbird had grown too large to enter the residence, though she often rested on the back deck just outside the sliding patio door.
Invisible, of course.
It wouldn’t do to start a panic in the neighborhood by having a thunderbird, who looked a lot like a giant pterosaur, visible to anyone who walked past the house.
I just wish you could come with us, Winona.
I will shadow you from the sky, my shaman. You will never be alone while I live.
I know, but sometimes I wish I could show you off the way Justin can Coyote!
Ahh, but your friends and neighbors will not see Coyote, Winona replied sensibly. They will see a pet dog dressed as a mummy. Cute, but far from the powerful trickster we know him to be.
Janine sighed. You’re right, of course. Justin and I are lucky that Dad and Grandpa know our secret.
Indeed, your father and Steadfast Guide are unique among mortal men.
“All right,” called Justin, breaking into Janine’s silent communication with her thunderbird. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
Dad came around the corner from the kitchen carrying the large plastic cauldron of candy. He inspected their costumes, nodded his approval, and waved them out the door with a cheerful, “Have fun!”
* * *
Two hours later the troops returned home with tired feet, faces and fingers chilled to the bone, and bags full of candy. Beat, but happy, Justin and Janine shrugged out of costumes and coats while Coyote released his mummy wrappings in a sparkle of magical dust. Winona, from her perch on the back deck, offered to whisk away the twins’ face paint as well, but they declined, deciding to wait and wash it off later. The make-up made a cool reminder of the fun they’d just had.
Coyote flopped onto the carpeting in the family room beside Justin while the twins upended their bags of candy and began sorting it into piles. The doorbell still rang occasionally and they heard Dad’s voice boom as he greeted late trick-or-treaters.
“Well,” said Coyote. “This has certainly been an interested look into human psychology.”
Justin snorted. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Coyote chewed on the pads of his front paw. “Only that I’ve heard of Halloween, and am aware of its ancient origins, but seeing its practice in modern day is enlightening.”
“Enlightening?” Janine said, looking up from her treats, her voice puzzled. “How?”
“Humans have chosen to forget us,” Coyote said after giving his paw a final lick. “They have relegated us to myth and legend, and yet, when it benefits them— for the gathering of sweet treats and the opportunity to play innocent tricks— they can still find us in the depths of their minds.”
Coyote speaks the truth, agreed Winona. We are not as forgotten as modern society would like to believe.
“I suppose,” said Justin, tossing a hard candy into the air and catching it in his mouth, “but I could care less about the reasons we celebrate Halloween.” He grinned a ghastly face-painted smile at Coyote and Janine. “I just like the treats… and the chance to trick my friends without getting in trouble!”
Janine laughed, but Coyote snorted and rolled on the floor.
“Tricksters for the win!” he yipped happily.